Album Review — Paul McCartney’s ‘McCartney III’

Sir Paul McCartney is without question one of the greatest songwriters of all-time. The songs John Lennon and McCartney wrote influenced every artist that came after them. I should mention McCartney is also my favorite Beatle, as his excellent storytelling and ear for beautiful melodies is what in my mind makes him the best of The Fab Four. His strong solo career after The Beatles only reinforces this in my mind (although Harrison has the best solo album of the four with All Things Must Pass). And the fact that he’s still making music at 78 years old after all he’s accomplished makes me marvel. So anytime Paul McCartney makes music, I’m going to appreciate it, regardless of it’s quality.

If you’ve listened to his previous McCartney albums, you know he likes to get a little weird on these albums. McCartney served as his debut album and it was largely panned by the critics because it was just so odd and different from The Beatles (with the exception being “Maybe I’m Amazed”). But with time people have come to realize how groundbreaking this album was, as it was basically the first indie pop album and it went sharply against the grain of the “wall of sound” that was becoming popular. It was unheard of before this for an artist to do everything on the album by themselves (his wife Linda of course played a big part in that album too) and it’s what distinguishes this series of albums for McCartney. McCartney II pushed the envelope by embracing synthesizers, as this was right before synths became a big trend in pop music in the 80s. So I was expecting something different with McCartney III in tradition with the previous two albums. And he delivers something different.

McCartney said he made this album simply out of boredom during “Rockdown” (his cheeky dad joke on the term lockdown) and while the rawness of this one-man effort shines through, the thorough fullness of the songs makes this feel like something that was more carefully orchestrated. In other words, McCartney can screw around and make a better album than most people can spending years trying to craft a record. I shouldn’t be surprised after laying out above while he’s one of the best. McCartney really surprises me, as he experiments even more than I thought he would on this album and for the most part he pulls off his creative rolls of the dice really well. It’s not amongst his best work (the bar is pretty damn high), but I think it’s a step up over Egypt Station and I would put it amongst his top five best solo albums.

My attention is immediately grabbed with opening track “Long Tailed Winter Bird,” an upbeat, jangly and acoustic-driven melody. It’s got a richly hypnotic feel, as McCartney cryptically asks if you miss him, a reference I’m sure to isolation during quarantine. A really simple track, but quite effective. Also I think he’s the first person I’ve ever heard playing the recorder and I’m not reaching to plug my ears, as it strangely fits the feel of the song. It’s an ideal opening track, as I’m immediately intrigued and want to hear more.

“Find My Way” is an optimistic ode to always being there for someone, even in these anxious, uncertain times. I would point to this song as another example of why I appreciate McCartney so much as a songwriter: he can write excellent happy songs. One of my biggest pet peeves with critics and more critical music fans is the incorrect notion that only dark songs can be considered deep, high-level songwriting. The idea that sadness is a required ingredient in a “serious” song is absolute trite. Sad songs have become just as predictable as the naively optimistic music that populates playlists and radio. I prefer a happy medium in-between. So McCartney’s tendency to be more “groundedly” optimistic and happy in his songs naturally draws me to his songwriting.  “Women and Wives” is an even better example of this. It’s about being determined and always striving to move forward in life, even when the “laughter turns to sorrow” and that it’s important to pass along what you know to the next generation to help in their own path in life. The moody piano really fits the lyrics too, as it feels like the soundtrack to taking a great journey (quite apt for a song about life).

“Pretty Boys” appears to be McCartney’s sarcastic commentary on the plastic faces you see in television and magazines. He muses there’s a lot to look at, but not much substance. This is probably my least favorite song on the album, as the musings are a bit amusing, but not as interesting as other songs on the album. The alliteratively titled “Lavatory Lil” makes me recall to mind “Polythene Pam” with it’s name choice. And I don’t who this is about, but she pissed off McCartney. He warns throughout the song of a “harlot” strung out on pills and sleeping around. It’s basically a diss track and a fun one to singalong with. The aggressive and punchy guitars are also appropriate on this smack-talking track.

The meandering and dream-like trance of “Deep Deep Feeling” is a real highlight, as McCartney gets real experimental and plays around. He really lets the song breathe and wander around, kind of a like a lost trip through a maze as the lyrics explore the tugging of emotions of someone in love. McCartney’s aged voice lends well to the mystical atmosphere created by the production too. This part of the album is where McCartney really hits his stride, as “Slidin'” is a fun, heavy rocker. McCartney again plays into psychedelic sounds, appropriate as this song seems to be about being high and having an out-of-body experience. The crunchy guitars are the key to this song, as they’re infectious to the ears.

“The Kiss of Venus” is a stripped-down love song about being captivated by your partner’s kiss. When it comes to these more saccharine McCartney songs, it’s hit and miss for most listeners, including myself. You either love it for it’s innocent sweetness (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Got To Get You Into My Life”) or as John Lennon once said, it’s “granny shit” (“When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Wild Honey Pie” for me). Fortunately this falls more into the former for me. The harpsichord is also a nice touch in the bridge. “Seize The Day” is about discovering an optimistic way of thinking after having love open your eyes. As McCartney wisely laments, you’ll wish you had a better attitude when bad times arrive. It’s another well written message about striving for optimism.

“Deep Down” is very much in the same vein as “Deep Deep Feeling.” It’s a long and mesmerizing track that takes it’s time. The drums and horns give it a commanding, catchy melody and the lingering mellotron chews up the scenery in a good way. I enjoy how McCartney experiments with his voice throughout, changing his tone and octave. He’s not really sure where to settle, but it works in a strange way that’s hard to put my finger on. Of course if you’ve listened to outtakes on the various albums of The Beatles, you know McCartney has always been a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to his vocals (really his music in general) and he likes to play around with them.

McCartney does a quick reprise of “Winter Bird” before giving way to “When Winter Comes,” which has an interesting backstory. McCartney originally recorded it in 1997 during the sessions for his album Flaming Pie with longtime Beatles producer George Martin. He decided to give it new life on this album rather than burying it as a B-side on the deluxe version of Flaming Pie. I applaud this choice because it’s a great song. It’s got a smooth, easy-going melody as McCartney muses of the surroundings of his farm. I particularly enjoy the lyrics about planting trees so someone may enjoy their shade one day and fixing a fence so some foxes won’t make the chickens and lambs uncomfortable. They perfectly fit the theme of this album of always striving to give back to the world around you, even through small gestures to some animals to poking around your farm.

McCartney III is a wonderfully solid album from Paul McCartney and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, those who enjoy the songwriting of McCartney will find plenty to enjoy. This album also continues the fun weirdness of the McCartney albums, as this fits right in with it’s predecessors. I would put this amongst my top 20 albums of 2020 and hopefully this is not the last album we get from the legendary McCartney. Because he clearly still has a lot of creativity left in the tank.

Buy It

The Hodgepodge: Is Pop Radio Better Than Country Radio Right Now?

500px-Train_wreck_at_Montparnasse_1895
A look at the current state of country radio and really mainstream country music in general.

Yesterday in this week’s current pulse of mainstream country music, I was pretty frustrated and exasperated with country radio. The reasons being of course is that nothing new is being tried by country radio and the songs with substance are getting harder to find. They’re simply rehashing the same old crap. Case in point: Jason Aldean’s new single “Tonight Looks Good On You” is surging and will undoubtedly reach #1 on the chart. It’s just another version of Aldean’s 2014 hit “Burnin’ It Down.” On top of that it’s a Dallas Davidson song. I mean come on! I thought country radio had moved passed Davidson’s bullshit, but apparently not.

So as I normally do when I get frustrated with terrible music, I go listen to music I enjoy. As I sat and listened to Hozier’s excellent 2014 debut album, an idea came to me for this week’s Hodgepodge. Why not take a look at pop radio and compare it to country radio? It’s a perfect time to do so when many country stations across the nation are playing blatant pop music. When Kanye West and Ed Sheeran are getting airplay on country radio, you know shit has hit the fan and country stations have run out of answers. So to conduct this comparison, we’ll take a look at the top 20 on the Billboard Top Pop Songs chart from last week and compare it to the top 20 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart from last week. The same exact rules will apply to this as the current pulse that runs every week.

The -3 score on last week’s pulse will not be used, since it’s the cumulative score of the top 30. Only the pulse of the top 20 will be used. By taking away the bottom ten songs, the pulse of the top 20 is 0. That will be the score we use to compare to the pop chart. Today you will get to see the very rare occurrence of yours truly evaluating pop music. See what you’ve done to me country radio? So without further ado let’s take a look at the Top Pop Chart:

  1. Taylor Swift – “Style” 0
  2. Maroon 5 – “Sugar” 0
  3. Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud” +1 (Sheeran is awesome)
  4. Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson – “Uptown Funk” +1 (This song is great, despite being overplayed)
  5. Pitbull & Ne-Yo – “Time of Our Lives” -1 (Pitbull sucks no matter what genre he is in)
  6. Ellie Goulding – “Love Me Like You Do” -1 (A terrible Fifty Shades of Grey song)
  7. Kanye West, Rihanna & Paul McCartney – “FourFiveSeconds” 0
  8. Natalie La Rose & Jeremih – “Somebody” -1
  9. Calvin Harris & Ellie Goulding – “Outside” 0
  10. Ariana Grande – “One Last Time” -1
  11. Nick Jonas – “Chains” +1 (I’m surprised I liked this)
  12. Zedd & Selena Gomez – “I Want You To Know” +1
  13. Taylor Swift – “Blank Space” -1
  14. One Direction – “Night Changes” -1
  15. Lillywood & Robin Schulz – “Prayer In C” 0
  16. Flo Rida, Sage The Gemini & Lookas – “G.D.F.R.” -1 (Flo Rida is the Toby Keith of pop music. He just keeps hanging on.)
  17. Jason DeRulo – “Want To Want Me” -1
  18. The Weeknd – “Earned It” -1 (Another terrible Fifty Shades of Grey song)
  19. Usher & Juicy J – “I Dont Mind” -1 
  20. Tori Kelly – “Nobody Love”

So the total current pulse of pop music is -8. Wow! It’s even worse than country radio! Yet country radio is borrowing from it. It shouldn’t be borrowing period from pop music, whether it’s better or worse. Still country radio is borrowing from a genre that is even worse. There are genre lines for a reason. The only common denominator between both groups of songs is the club theme. You can thank Sam Hunt for bringing this into country music. Music about going to the club is just plain dumb and it’s why people laugh at artists like Pitbull and Flo Rida. I will say though I would take pop’s club music over country’s club music.

After this not very surprising revelation, I think I can safely say that all of radio is nothing but a vast wasteland of garbage songs. Country radio isn’t the only one lacking substance. However it’s imperative if I point out the big different between both. Country radio and pop radio historically have been viewed completely different by listeners. Pop radio is a mix of several different genres all in one place for casual listeners to hear. Upbeat, fun, party songs are the norm for pop and everyone pretty much knows this. You don’t hear a lot of songs that you would consider classics get on pop radio today, save for the likes of Adele and Hozier maybe. In years past you had icons like Michael Jackson dominating pop, but I don’t see any singers like Jackson on the horizon.

Country radio on the other hand was always viewed by people as a place to go for songs about life, love and other themes that explore deeper meaning. It was the genre of substance. You could hear a song like Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High On That Mountain” and be brought to tears. George Strait’s “Give It Away” or Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” connected with anyone out there whoever had their heart-broken. Go back a little over ten years and you could hear a song on country radio like Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train” that had a great message to anyone of any age. These are the kind of songs that made country music what it was. It was what made you and me fans of country music.

Now an entire generation views country music as a laughing-stock full of songs about drinking, debauchery and partying. That respect country music once held in popular culture has eroded away. People turn on country radio and don’t even recognize the genre. Some people don’t even turn on the radio. Sure there is plenty of great independent country music out there and sites like this help spread the word of it. But why would people seek it out? After what they hear on country radio, it makes them run away from the genre. They’ve got such a sour taste from country radio that they won’t even try the good country music. Country music fans need something to believe in and hear to reaffirm their faith in the genre. Will we get that before it’s too late? For the sake of country music, I hope so.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Will Hoge will come out with his new album Small Town Dreams next Tuesday. A couple of months ago we got a taste of what’s to come on the album and based on that I’m expecting this to be a good one. Derek will be reviewing this one, as Hoge is one of his favorites.
  • Kristian Bush’s debut solo album Southern Gravity will also be released next Tuesday. The lead single “Trailer Hitch” was a surprisingly good song, so it’ll be interesting to hear what the rest of the album sounds like and whether the sound of Sugarland is evident at all.
  • The third notable release next week and the biggest in the independent realm is Pokey LaFarge’s Something In The Water. This could quietly be one of the best releases in April.
  • On Monday, Jason Isbell tweeted: “New new album is done and mastered.” So maybe we’ll get this sooner than July? I certainly hope so. We should at least hear the first single from it very soon.

Throwback Thursday Song

George Jones – “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” – You know how I was saying up above about how country music was the genre about life and connecting with everyday people? This song articulates that point perfectly. And it’s a song many country fans wonder today.

Non-Country Song of the Week

AC/DC – “Shoot To Thrill” – This is one of my all-time favorite AC/DC songs. The high notes blow me away every time.

Tweet of the Week

Anti-Bobby Bones tweets are always great. He’s another problem hurting country music, but that’s another post for another day.

Two iTunes Reviews That Will Make You Face Palm

Stupid EYB Comment 2

 

Stupid EYB Comment 3

 

I’ve been sitting on these gems for a couple of weeks. These were under Eli Young Band’s new EP Turn It On. The first one justifies this terrible EP by saying everyone’s going pop in country, so it’s fine. The other says it’s fine because they wrote all four songs. Here’s an easy way to determine whether or not a song or group of songs suck: people having to list reasons to justify why it’s good. People making excuses for it. A great song speaks volumes on its own merit and doesn’t need to be explained why it’s good.

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments! 

Hodgepodge of Country Stuff: No Moron, Artists Shouldn’t Pay You To Listen

So what exactly is this? That’s what you thought when you read the title above. Well I’m going to explain this to you. This is a new weekly feature that will be on the site and as you can see it’s called Hodgepodge of Country Stuff. If you’re a sports fan that visits major sites like ESPN, Sports Illustrated and FOX Sports, you’ll see some of their writers do weekly columns where they’ll discuss something and then have a variety of interesting tidbits that will follow it (think Bill Simmons and Peter King). This is just like those, except about country music of course. Got it? Good. 

When I go on social media and check out what is happening in the world around me, I don’t go in with the intent of getting pissed off. It just simply happens. Well that happened earlier this week when I read the replies to a tweet sent out by Rolling Stone. The story tweeted out was this story, which was about Kanye West and his team using data to better maximize their profit. Why wouldn’t they take data and use it to make more money? It’s what any smart business does with their customers. And then I saw this:

Seriously? Are you kidding me? I’ve read plenty about the idea of artists paying fans to listen to their music and I just laughed about it because I thought there wasn’t actually people out there naive enough to think this to be true. Sure enough there are and it sent me into a Twitter rant. If you want to see that click here. I can’t imagine how infuriated an artist must feel when they read these comments. They put their heart and soul into making music (most of them), yet some fans just don’t give a shit.

If you share the sentiments of the commenter I called out above, you’re an entitled dipshit. First off nobody is forcing you to listen to music. Second you’re not that important. To put this into context, should Leonardo da Vinci have paid people to look at the Mona Lisa? No because that’s stupid. “But their music sucks! Music has gone down hill for the most part anyway.” You know why the quality of music has slipped compared to decades before it? It’s because people started stealing it and not paying for it. All of the sudden artists aren’t making what they’re supposed to with their music. So why should they try as hard? The fans don’t care, so why should they?

“But Katy Perry and Taylor Swift don’t need more money. They’re rich!” Sure they’re rich, but these artists are part of the 1% of the musicians’ industry. What about independent artists, the 99%? This all has a ripple effect on their livelihoods. Streaming is the name of the game today, largely because of illegal downloading of music. Spotify pays artists per song streamed, between $0.006 and $0.0084. So after about 10,000 plays the artist makes $10. Can you live on $10? No! Nobody can live on this kind of financial mean.

The point of all of this is thanks to selfish music listeners, songs have been devalued into less than a penny. The quality of music has decreased in many people’s eyes. Labels and artists are making less money. Music sales are tanking. The Tennesseean had a great piece recently highlighting all of these problems. If you don’t have time to read the whole piece, here was the real eye-opening part to me:

Since 2000, the number of full-time songwriters in Nashville has fallen by 80 percent, according to the Nashville Songwriters Association International. Album sales plummeted below 4 million in weekly sales in August, which marked a new low point since the industry began tracking data in 1991. Streaming services are increasing in popularity but have been unable to end the spiral.

So in the end nobody is winning with the current system. Everybody is losing money and there’s no easy solution that can appease everyone. This problem was created by the selfish music listener though and this problem will have to be solved by music listeners. If you love an artist’s music, go buy it. Go to their concerts and buy their gear. Don’t support artists you don’t like. Don’t listen to their music. And don’t steal music ever. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Reba McEntire just released her new single “Going Out Like That” this week. It’s the first song released under the NASH Icons label and the first single from Reba’s new album coming out this year. You’ll see my thoughts on this song real soon.
  • Justin Townes Earle will release his new album Absent Fathers next Tuesday January 13. It’s the followup to his 2014 release Single Mothers. By the way I can’t believe I forgot to put this on my 2015 albums list. I didn’t realize it until after the article was published. My bad!
  • Cody Canada & The Departed will release a new album that day also, titled Hippielovepunk. That’s certainly an interesting name. I plan on reviewing this as soon as possible.
  • Zac Brown Band will debut his new single “Homegrown” during the College Football Playoff Championship Tailgate on ESPN next Monday January 12. It’ll be the first single off his new album coming out in 2015. It was announced several months ago he would be performing here and it’s a smart move on his part. Anything beats hearing “Centuries” by Fall Out Boy for the millionth time this season (college football fans know what I mean when I say this).

Throwback Thursday Song

 

Little Jimmy Dickens’ “Sleep At The Foot of the Bed.” The country music world lost a great artist and an even better person in Dickens this past week. I was going to write a post about it, but I didn’t feel like I could do him justice. I’ll admit I’m not the most familiar with Mr. Dickens, but I’ve known about him since I was a kid and I have heard some of his music. I definitely want to go back and listen to more of his catalog now. I saw a lot of great tributes to Little Jimmy, but my favorite was Brad Paisley’s tribute to him. I guess his tribute means a little more personally because Paisley is the one who introduced Dickens to me. If you haven’t read Paisley’s tribute, click here. I definitely recommend reading it. Rest in peace Little Jimmy Dickens.

My Non-Country Song/Thought of the Week

I have to say something about Kanye West’s new song with Paul McCartney, “Only One.” I have never understood the appeal of Kanye’s music and I still don’t understand it’s appeal. This song dropped on New Year’s night to the surprise of everyone and I thought this was a cool move on Kanye’s part. I decided to give his music a chance again, especially since Sir Paul was involved. I’m not going to beat around the bush: I think “Only One” sucks. The lyrics are good, but the auto-tune is so terrible. I don’t understand why people enjoy hearing auto-tuned singing. It’s grating, robotic and devoid of human emotion. If you want to hear this song for some reason, you can click here. By the way, Paul McCartney is barely present on the song too. I’m also not shocked Kanye fans aren’t familiar with him either. This is coming from a fan base that views Kanye as a genius.

Tweet of the Week

Never change, Michelle Beadle. Also seems like every week I see a non-country music person diss Florida Georgia Line. I hope America’s hate for the group continues to grow until the point this group is a laughingstock like Nickelback. It’s not that farfetched of an idea.

Something To Make You Laugh

An actual search term somebody used to find Country Perspective:

What

Yeah I don’t know what to say. Get it together, Google!

 

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments!